Job Hunt

The Job Boom in the Nation's Capital

There’s much to talk about in Washington, DC, these days and, no, we don’t mean politics. A look at the city’s bustling job market.

These days, it’s jobs that should have your ears ringing when it comes to the District of Columbia—not the White House or Capitol Hill. In early November, Amazon announced it would open two secondary headquarters, one of which will sit in the DC suburb of Arlington, Virginia. The move came after Bechtel Corp., a large global construction company, announced it would move its headquarters to Reston, not far from Dulles International Airport, by the end of the year. And even tech titans, including Facebook and Yelp, have expanded their office footprints in DC this year.

Employment in DC has grown 2% this year compared to last year – above the national average.

It’s no wonder that DC is often thought of as a “jobs first” type of town, putting the city’s employment data above national averages. Employment has grown 2% this year compared to last year, above the national average sitting near 1.6% during the same time period. Wages and salaries have grown 3%, which is in line with the national average. And while the District’s unemployment rate of 6.3% is more than two percentage points higher than the national rate, it drops to 3.6% if you include the surrounding area, where many professionals live, commuting in from the suburbs of Alexandria, Arlington, and parts of Maryland. 

The midterms aren’t the driving force.

Here comes some of the political talk that might surprise you. With the midterm elections having wrapped up in November, it’s easy to assume that this leads to a wave of new jobs since the Democrats grasped control of the House of Representatives. Such political shifts, however, have less impact “than you might imagine,” says Jim Weinstein, a career consultant in the city. While the members of Congress that no longer have a job will have upheaval among their small staffs, and committees may have some shift in funding, by and large it’s incremental to an area the size of DC.

It’s a hotbed for nonprofits.

Career pros say the switch in the White House in 2016 from Barack Obama to Donald Trump moved many Democrats out of office and into nonprofit funding, particularly as many initiatives from the previous administration were changed. DC has the highest percentage of nonprofit positions in the country (accounting for 23% of nonprofit hiring), no matter which side of the aisle you’re on.

Weinstein, for example, had a client who worked on the Iran Nuclear Deal within the Obama administration. After Trump’s election, the deal would get scrapped, leaving the client without much direction on how to turn the achievement into a second act. His client, however, found a place in consulting with progressive nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations that are trying to fight Trump’s messaging around Iran.

Federal jobs remain strong.

While the number of federal jobs in DC central has shrunk under Trump, that isn’t the case if you include the federal positions just outside the city. With an increase in defense budgets, those positions actually grew, spurring a hiring spree in the Northern Virginia region.

The level of federal contractors has also remained strong. The number of professional and business service roles—which include federal contractors—in the region grew 3.1% in the past year, which is the third-largest position to see growth in the area, behind construction, and leisure and hospitality.

Salaries are especially robust in certain sectors.

On a whole, the DC area offers highly attractive salaries that clock in at nearly $9 more per hour compared to the national hourly average. When digging deeper into the numbers, that rate climbs significantly for certain professions. 

Public relations professionals in the DC area, for example, earn 45% more than the national average. Lawyers, meanwhile, earn 24% more than those practicing law across the country. Who knew it pays, in Washington, to have a focus on legalese and communicating with the public. You’ll also find the city appreciates (read: pays) management analysts, accountants and economists a little more than the rest of the US.

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